Why is the movie "The Wizard of Oz" stereotypically associated with gay male culture?

(I realize that this might end up in IMHO. We’ll cross that rainbow when we come to it.)

“The Wizard of Oz” is the single movie most associated with the gay male culture in this country. Movies (viz. My Fellow Americans) make jokes based on that fact. Being a straight guy myself, this has always made me wonder. There is a stereotype that gay males like Judy Garland*, but that doesn’t make much sense to me, either. What is the history behind these associations?

*(Uh, not in That Way, obviously.)

Apparently there’s plenty of metaphors in the movie and the musical and the sequel to the book. In the sequel, the main character “Tip” IIRC transforms back and forth from being male to female and back again. The musical speaks for itself… just watch it. Then there’s the rainbow which is associated with the coalition or whatever. Of course Judy goes without saying and then the three amigos when they get to Oz make claim to be FOD “Friends of Dorothy”. Another phrase among the gay community from what I understand. I am not gay myself but there seems to be some things a little queer about the movie, aside from the cast, the set, the characters and I forget, wasn’t the director gay as well?

and let’s not forget about the Lion.
I’m not sure where the flying monkeys come into play. :open_mouth:

Can you expand?

Is it Judy Garland in general, or specifically her role as Dorothy that’s associated with gay culture?

(In fact, a “friend of Dorothy” is used in the UK as another term for gay)

AFAIK, the usage of the phrase derives specifically from the association with the movie, so mentioning it like this merely documents it, but does little to explain why the association arose.

Judy’s association with the gay community goes back to the fifties and her father to the 40’s IIRC. They stood up for the gay community and were respected by the gay community for doing so.
As friends of Dorothy, three misfits, social outcasts that just want to be loved, respected and heard. They found that by sticking with Dorothy through the bleakest of times. They found what they were looking for was already in themselves and Dorothy’s love helped them to get there. Three fellows who weren’t exactly what you’d call manly but heroes nonetheless.

Well, Judy’s father’s “association with the gay community” goes back quite a bit farther than that… (he was gay)

Consider “Over the Rainbow.” An isolated adolescent from the middle of nowhere who doesn’t fit in where she is dreams of a place where everything is bright and colorful and fabulous. It’s not just a metaphor for the idea of gay migration to large urban centers, it’s practically a road map.

I just breezed through the book. You realize this movie was based on a series of short stories. The original fans of the movie were probably familiar with the children’s books before the movie was ever made. In the book there are several reference to the queer people and queer this and that. The lion really is a daisy in the book and talks about feeling gay. The tin man cries at the drop of a hat and Dorothy is at first kissed by the good witch of the north. Then later practically falls in love with a princess she meets and later is kissed by the good witch of the south. There are lots of other examples in the book that lead me to believe the gay community then was probably familiar with the Wizard of Oz even before the film. The film just really clinched it, especially with the Over the Rainbow themesong, and Judy as the lead.

So why not The Flinstones as a gay icon? After all, they had a Gay Old Time! :wink:

Seriously, ‘queer’ and ‘gay’ had different meanings when the book was written.

I realize that gay then didn’t mean homosexual. But the passage was about the cowardly lion skipping through the flowers talking about how happy and gay he was feeling. Not too macho, especially for a lion.

I could be wrong but IIRC queer usually meant odd or strange but was still used when referring to homosexuals.

As far as the Flintstones go… it did start out with Fred sucking on a bone. :wink:

In addition to the movie’s metaphors and the Gumm/Minnelli connection, discussed above by Otto and jimbeam, there’s one key connection that nailed the association in place permanently, over and above being an association.

Judy Garland’s strained life and the pain she expressed in her songs continued to make her a gay icon, until her death, from an accidental overdose of barbiturates, on June 22, 1969. Her funeral was held on June 27, and many NYC gay men attended as grievers. That evening, angry with a sense of loss, many of them gathered at the Stonewall Inn, targeted for a raid by the NYC Vice Squad.

The rest, as they are wont to say, is history.

air boxing at you

Put 'em up! Put 'em uh-up!

The Judy/Stonewall story is an interesting myth but primary sources (e.g. many of the people who were verifiably there) say that it ain’t so.

The movie was based on the children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. While episodic in nature, I believe it was written and published as a single novel rather than a serial.

Now, IANAFOD, but as a youngster, I understood the song as just about a peaceful land of milk and honey. As I look back, it’s a metaphor for why people went to the movies in 1939: escapism.

This song, this movie, is the pure sappy concentrated form of that escapism. A 1939 Kansas kid’s dream of California. Or a 1939 American’s dream of a world where there wouldn’t be any more poverty or another war.

Surely not a road map? Wouldn’t it have magical buildings and streets and men, instead of just clouds and sky and birds?

What it’s really got are universals. Unbearably gooey and sentimental universals with the drama meter pegged to eleven. But universals nonetheless.

I’m not suggesting that OTR has no resonance with straight people. But that’s not the topic of the thread.

I’m really appreciative for this thread. As a gay man who has never felt any affinity for Judy Garland and hasn’t even seen all of “Wizard of Oz” (and I absolutely HATE “Over the Rainbow”), I never understood the connection (stereotype?). Now it makes a little more sense- I knew that Judy Garland was supportive of her gay fans, but I didn’t realize she actively spoke out for gay rights, or that her father was gay.

I love the Straight Dope. :slight_smile:

There’s also the theme that when your family rejects you, you can find another “family” through the friends who love you for what you are.

This is a totally accurate explanation; the rest of you are being way too literal. I don’t remember, as a queer kid, watching the movie and cataloging all the gay references, all of which would have been over my head at the time. But I do remember the utterly magical sense of wonder and of longing, and the empathy I felt toward the four characters. Especially their status of “strangers in a strange land.”

It has absolutely nothing to do with the multitude of gay-related footnotes associated with the movie. As a kid, I knew nothing whatsoever about gay culture, but I was drawn to that movie on a level that I wouldn’t understand till decades later.

I’ve never really understood this “Gay men loved Judy Garland because she had a tough life” argument. Many, many Hollywood stars have struggled with personal problems every bit as bad as Garland’s but did not become gay icons, and in any event Garland’s problems were largely of her own creation. There must be something else that attaches Garland to gay. The evidence presented thus far suggests she became a gay icon due to her being in The Wizard of Oz, which definitely has favourable themes to a gay audience - whether deliberately so or not.

The ruby slippers from the movie were stolen from a Grand Rapids, Mich., museum last year.

David Letterman said the thief was described as “armed and fabulous.”